The Knowledge Ecology of Open-Source Software Projects

TitleThe Knowledge Ecology of Open-Source Software Projects
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsLanzara, GR
Date PublishedJuly

In this paper we characterize the processes of knowledge making in open-source software projects as an ecology of agents, artifacts, rules, resources, activities, practices and interactions. In order to grasp its dynamic features we consider open-source software projects as interactive systems based on dense interactions between humans and technical artifacts within electronic media. Technology, rather than formal or informal organization, embodies most of the conditions for governance in open-source software projects, hence becoming a critical pathway to the understanding of collective task accomplishment, coordination and knowledge making processes. Based on an in-depth analysis of two open-source software projects, we examine three kinds of artifacts, respectively inscribing technical, organizational, and institutional knowledge. Our preliminary findings support the ecological view, that the contradictory requirements of innovation and stability in project-based knowledge making are balanced by mechanisms of variation, selection, and stabilization.


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